Nature can be a fickle mistress. She adapts, changes, morphs and creates wonders. A caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. A sperm meets an egg and a human is born. But then there are the anomalies, quirks, and scratch-your-head-WTFs, as if Mother Nature is playing a cruel joke. Here are 10 extremely weird medical conditions.
Human Werewolf Syndrome
Human werewolf syndrome, or hypertrichosis, is an abnormal amount of hair growth. It can be present at birth, or it can appear later in life. Laser hair removal is the most effective treatment. Many freak show or carnival performers in the 19th and 20th centuries suffered from this syndrome.
Blue People of Kentucky
Caused by a rare disease called hereditary methemoglobinemia, “blue people” of the Appalachian Hills of Kentucky have reduced oxygen-carrying capability, which gives them a blue tint. Since it’s a recessive gene, the only way to get the blue tint is for both parents to carry it. And for a whole clan to become populated by blue people, well, you guessed it: over time there must’ve been a lot of inbreeding going on. Says researcher Cathy Trost, “Fugates married other Fugates. Sometimes they married first cousins.”
In 1960, a doctor tracked down a few of them and came up with a temporary cure: methylene blue, which replaced the missing enzyme in the blood.
The Blue Man
Not to be confused with the Blue People of Kentucky, Paul Karason wasn’t born blue. His skin starting turning blue (a condition called argyria) when he drank a liquid form of silver to treat a bad case of dermatitis on his face. Apparently, silver has antibacterial properties and was used to fight infections for thousands of years until penicillin was developed. Turning blue didn’t happen overnight, but gradually over the 14 years he self-medicated. He’s blue for life. Of course, the makers of colloidal silver go to great lengths to say Paul’s story is a public-relations fraud.
You think you’ve got it bad? Consider Dede Koswara, an Indonesian fisherman who looked like an “Avatar” experiment gone wrong. He began growing “roots” out of his arms and feet after he cut his knee as a boy. As his conditioned worsened, he lost his job and his wife of 10 years walked out, taking their son and daughter. Unable to pick up a fork or close his hand, he made his living by performing in carnivals and became known as the Treeman. The growths on his arms accounted for 12 pounds of his 100-pound body. The growths are caused by an HPV-2 virus compounded by his deficiency of white blood cells. However, since his diagnosis and after appearing on television, Koswara started treatment, which has reduced the size of the growths and helped him live a more normal life.
Hiccups Gone Wild
For three long years, Christopher Sands had a terrible case of the hiccups. He couldn’t go out with friends. He couldn’t get a girlfriend. Sometimes he’d pass out. He tried everything from acupuncture to massages to an oxygen chamber, all with no results. Only when his story was featured in Japan did a medic piece together that he might have a tumor. The medic was right. Turns out Christopher had a half-inch tumor in his brain stem that was pinching a nerve that controlled his breathing. He had surgery in 2010, and although he suffers from numbness in his leg and hand, his hiccups are gone.
Permanent Sexual Arousal Syndrome
You might think having an orgasm all the time might be a slice of heaven. But for the thousands of women it afflicts who are always on the verge of climaxing, no matter the time or place, it’s hell. The constant arousal is not due to hormones and isn’t even sexual. Men can experience a similar problem with unwanted erections that last more than four hours, called priapism. There is currently no cure.
Some men boast about having the biggest package around, but for those rare souls who have elephantitis, it’s more than just talk, and it’s terribly uncomfortable. A rare disease caused by microscopic parasitic worms common in tropical regions and Africa, the worms block the body’s lymphatic system, causing swelling in the legs or scrotum. Treatment includes the tablet Hetrazan.
While not conclusive, it’s thought that John Merrick, otherwise known as “The Elephant Man,” suffered from Proteus syndrome as well as neurofibromatosis type 1. Proteus syndrome is an extremely rare congenital disorder marked by atypical bone development and tumor growth over the body.
Stone Man Syndrome
Stone-man syndrome, or if you want to get fancy, fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) is an extremely rare disease in which the body’s repair mechanism causes tissue to be ossified when damaged. Basically, if you get cut, instead of skin repairing skin, skin becomes bone. The most famous patient, Harry Eastlack, was so ossified he could only move his lips before his sad death at age 39.
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Real Life Stretch Armstrongs
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a group of inherited connective tissue disorders caused by a defect in the production of collagen. Collagen helps with elasticity, and in this disorder, it causes hypermobility and hyperextension. The condition can be mild or life threatening, and there is currently no cure.